Pelletier: Normally when I am sitting down to write this and it’s dark outside, it’s before I go to sleep, not after I wake up. So if some of this gets a little fuzzy, I plead morning-induced insanity.
OK, Mr. Football, we’ve written in this space about teams that have surprised and impressed, but a successful team is nothing but a group of players all pushing in the same direction toward a common goal. In some cases, some of those players will stand out. Sometimes, perhaps all season and perhaps only in one game, a player will hoist a team on his shoulders and carry his teammates to a crucial win or two.
So, he who sees all and pretends to know just as much, as we near the playoffs, where top performers will shine, give me an example or two of the best you’ve either seen, read about or heard of this season.
And try to keep it local, of course. We all know of the exploits of Dane Johnson at Bangor and Joe Fitzpatrick at Cheverus, two running backs who are over 1,000 yards on the season in just seven games.
I’ll get things started by checking in with an early vote for a true MVP: Is there any team in our area any different with and without a player than Oak Hill when Kyle Flaherty is available to play? His ability to both break the big play and chew up the clock when protecting a lead are big-time skills, and one of the reasons Oak Hill is a co-favorite to emerge from the top-heavy Western D field.
Oakes: By the definition of “valuable,” sure, I would cast a vote for Flaherty. I’ve seen the difference in the Raiders he makes when he does/doesn’t play with my own four eyes. He’s not the only running back in the area who makes a staggering difference in his team when he’s on the field, however. Lewiston may or may not go 0-8 for the first time in 35 years, but I don’t believe we’d be discussing that indignity if Quintarian Brown played an entire season. And in a happier ending for a team that is headed for the playoffs, J.T. Williams has proven when he is on the field that he is the heart, soul, mind, spirit and secretary-general at Mt. Blue.
Life’s unfair, though, and when it’s time to discuss postseason awards, guys who were able to stay on the field get first priority. Speaking of Flaherty, I don’t believe any player in our area has evolved more than the lightning to his thunder, Alex Mace. Maybe it was by necessity, but Mace’s strength, durability and toughness took a quantum leap this year. Opponents knew for three or four weeks that No. 22 was likely to get the ball, and they couldn’t stop it. That’s not what usually expect from your “change-of-pace” or “utility” back.
But I’m a little bit old-school. I’m sure you knew that. My favorite offensive position is fullback, and in my mildly arrogant and slanted opinion, we have the state’s best in Tyler Frost of Dirigo and Joe Philbrick of Lisbon. They get it done differently. Frost takes handoffs and punishes the defense 20 times a game. Philbrick is better known for running interference and knocking the phlegm out of somebody so Noah Francis and Shawn Grover can run to the end zone or Kyle Bourget can perform his play-action magic. And they’re both pivoval to their teams’ defenses, too.
I wish you could submit a three-headed monster for awards consideration, also, because I don’t think there’s a better one anywhere than Spruce Mountain’s Peter Theriault, Matt Vigue and Deonte Ring. They share the wealth and make huge plays in every phase of the game. As is the case with most undefeated teams, the stars probably lose individual credit in exchange for the collective success. There are worse life lessons, I suppose.
Oh, and Davis Turner of Oxford Hills is an absolute beast. He might lead Class A East in total tackles by 50 at this rate. Have I succeeded in dropping every name you were going to mention on your way out the door this week? Ha! And you thought going first was an advantage.
Pelletier: In your own, overstated way, you’ve actually opened a pretty big door through which I will gladly walk. Um, Senor Oakes of the futbol fame, have you completely forgotten your beloved Hornets a bit closer to this end of Route 4?
How about Levi Craig picking apart defenses with his arm to a bevy of darts in the wide receiving corps, Max Green being on the receiving end of many of those tosses and playing a pivotal role on defense, and Mr. All-Purpose Billy Bedard, who saved the team’s chances at a No. 1 seed with a defensive swat against Wells last week? Surely you haven’t.
And the scary thing is, there are more Leavitt players we could go to here. As you said, that happens when a team has success.
How about one more on a team that was mathematically eliminated last week a few hours before kickoff thanks to a forfeit south of Exit 63. I would argue that among quarterbacks in our neck of the woods, Edward Little’s Matt Verrill is as valuable and electric to watch as any of them. And his backfield compatriot, Hunter Martin, might be the fastest running back in the state, regardless of class. Together, they shredded Noble two weeks ago when the playoffs were still a possibility, and participation therein required nothing but wins.
I suppose I’ll give you a pass, though. We can’t all have shaahp minds past the age of … well … We can’t all have shaahp minds.
Oakes: Speaking of doors you don’t want to open … I know how old you are. Six-and-a-half years are only a big difference if you’re a dog.
Certainly didn’t forget about any of those Leavitt guys. I think there’s a better-than-average chance we’ll be talking about them next year at this time, too.
Of course, it’s too early to be talking about next year. Heck, I think it’s too early to be handing out honors this year. We have some games this weekend (Spruce Mountain-Leavitt, Lisbon-Oak Hill) capable of making us reconsider everything we thought we knew.
So let’s play ball. If you can keep yourself awake, anyway.